The Greek Parliament voted narrowly to back a historic agreement with its northern neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, ending a three-decade dispute between the two countries.
The members of Parliament narrowly agreed (153 votes to 146) to approve the name “Republic of North Macedonia,” despite widespread opposition from the Greek public and the global Greek diaspora.
According to opinion polls, two thirds of the Greek public opposed the deal.
Thousands demonstrated outside the main parliament building on Thursday night while a fiery debate was taking place inside.
Greeks reject the Slavic country calling itself “Republic of Macedonia” since its independence in 1991 as Greece has a region of the same name.
Furthermore, the country and its residents often link themselves to the lineage, culture and history of the Ancient Macedonians, who were Greeks.
Nationalists in the county have made claims on Greek territory and have printed maps, propaganda and other materials showing their country one day “reclaiming” lands all the way to the Aegean.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who brokered the deal, has celebrated the vote as a “historic day”.
Western institutions also hailed it as a step forward for regional stability and further integration of the tiny Balkan nation into the Western sphere of influence and away from both Russia and Turkey, both of whom were making inroads and investments in the country.
In addition to adding the geographic designation “north” to its name, Greece has agreed to lift its blockade on the country’s NATO and EU accession bids.
Johannes Hahn, EU-Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, congratulated the leaders of the two countries in a series of Tweets.
John Bolton, Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor also chimed in, congratulating both leaders and hailing the agreement as a “remarkable achievement that will promote stability and prosperity in the Balkans.
The United States Embassy in Athens also congratulated the two countries and shared the State Department’s official statement on the signing of the historic deal.
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